As I sit down to write this post today, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the hottest team in baseball. They have won 16 of their last 20 games, including 11 in a row! So, when I had the opportunity to go to PNC Park and see them in person during the streak, of course I wanted to go. Wouldn’t you know it, they lost that game. And not only did they lose, they lost ugly, giving up 12 runs, striking out a record number of times and committing three errors. Thankfully, their imitation of the Bad News Bears was short-lived. They soon got back to their winning ways, which had everyone wondering what they would do at the looming trade deadline.
Without going baseball geek on you, a moment comes at the end of July when every team has to decide if they are going to be a buyer or a seller. If they believe their team is good enough to make the post-season, they will typically buy, or add quality players to their roster, to help them through the remainder of the season. If they believe they are out of contention, then they typically sell, or trade players from their team, in return for future prospects. The Pirates have been widely criticized in the past for not being willing to add when they were in the running. Not this year! They made a couple of bold moves that are being lauded throughout the baseball community.
We’ll see throughout August and September if the Pirates’ trades pay off. But what I find so compelling is that every team needs to take a cold, hard look at itself and decide if has what it takes or if it doesn’t. For some teams, like the Red Sox, who are 40+ games over .500, or the Orioles, who are 40+ games under .500, that’s pretty easy. It’s a little more complicated for a team like the Pirates, who have only recently climbed their way into a winning record. But regardless of how easy or hard the assessment might be, it has to be done.
Even though you might not be a baseball executive who has the responsibility to make that assessment for your team, you are in a position requiring you to make other assessments. Those have to do with how well you’re playing in the present season of life. Unfortunately, there is a temptation to push off making those assessments, which keep us from improving our position in the short-term and for the future. Just as it is for a baseball team, that will leave you in a place where you’re sacrificing responsibility and opportunity.
The scriptures call us to assess ourselves. The Apostle Paul writes, “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions.” (Galatians 6:3-4). That sounds well and good, but the truth is that self-examination can be very hard. It can be painful to open up our lives to honest scrutiny, because we all have areas where we can improve. But to do so, we first have to acknowledge that everything isn’t as it should be. That should be something we’re ready and willing to do, because it is the fast-track to blessing, but the temptation is to become defensive and resist what the examination would reveal. The result is that we hamstring our own potential progress.
The good news is that when we are willing to open our lives to scrutiny and acknowledge areas where we’re weak, there are other resources we can bring onto the team, if you will, that make us better, shore up weaknesses and prepare us for a more successful future. James tells us that whoever looks into the perfect law that brings freedom and patterns their life accordingly, they will be blessed in what they do.
Refusing the mid-season honest assessment may make life more comfortable temporarily because you have put off the difficult reality check. However, that comfort will be very short-lived as reality will eventually crash in, requiring action. The problem is that the delay only takes us farther and farther away from the goal. You’re going to have to face the truth eventually and the sooner you do it, the more quickly you will turn yourself toward winning ways.
So, what trades do you need to make in your life today?